Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Biotech Medicine

Researchers Switch Neurons Off and On Using Noninvasive Ultrasound 37

Jason Koebler writes: Optogenetics, the ability to control neurons using bursts of light, has been one of the most promising breakthroughs in neurology of this decade. It's been a boon for researchers, but its invasive nature (the brain must usually be exposed) has held the technology back. Sreekanth Chalasani of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies described a new, noninvasive method of controlling neurons using ultrasound pulses in Nature Communications. For the first time ever, he was able to manipulate a genetically modified organism using a new technique called sonogenetics.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Researchers Switch Neurons Off and On Using Noninvasive Ultrasound

Comments Filter:
  • cool Star Wars name
  • Love of music just got a new meaning: http://motherboard.vice.com/re... [vice.com]
    • Posting to undo mod.....

  • Why would you want to switch neuron off? On a medical standpoint I mean.

    • by crgrace ( 220738 )

      Turning a neuron "off" doesn't make much sense unless you are destroying it.

      Neurons work in two ways, they are either "excitatory" in which case they tend to create further firing, or "inhibitory" in which case they tend to suppress further firing. I'll assume you meant "making it more inhibitory" when you said turning it off.

      We are a long way from such things, but you could imagine the utility of "turning off" or making neurons more inhibitory in the case of Parkinson's Disease where there is too much sup

      • By "inhibitory" in which case they tend to suppress further firing, I gather you mean that they transmit a signal to a downlevel neuron that makes it more likely to disregard another neuron's signal that makes it more likely to fire. But what if you want to see for a little while what happens when a neuron never fires, but want to make it go back to the way it was before you made it not fire at all. I would call that turning the neuron off.
      • Neurons work in two ways, they are either "excitatory" in which case they tend to create further firing, or "inhibitory" in which case they tend to suppress further firing.

        Well, then allow me to try to be among the first to ask the stupid question:

        If it can be excitatory, and inhibitory ... shouldn't there be a corresponding "not doing a damned thing" state?

        You know, like ... oh, I don't know ... off?

        • by crgrace ( 220738 )

          If it can be excitatory, and inhibitory ... shouldn't there be a corresponding "not doing a damned thing" state?

          That would be "dead". You don't need optogenetics for that.

    • Why would you want to switch neuron off? On a medical standpoint I mean.

      There is no medical reason, but there are research reasons. Turning neurons on and off helps us understand how brains work, and what causes brain disorders, like epilepsy and dementia. Even single neurons can have an effect. For instance, there is the Jennifer Aniston cell [newscientist.com].

  • by frank_adrian314159 ( 469671 ) on Tuesday September 15, 2015 @06:32PM (#50528305) Homepage

    I just turn them on and off the old-fashioned way, with caffeine and alcohol.

  • This is something my wife could do with only the sound of her voice!
  • misleading (Score:5, Insightful)

    by crgrace ( 220738 ) on Tuesday September 15, 2015 @06:43PM (#50528355)

    Again, the summary was highly misleading. Optogenetics only works with GENETICALLY MODIFIED neurons, so won't easily work as a therapeutic technique. That's OK, because what it is used for is basic neuroscience research.

    The idea is if you want to look at specific neural pathways you can optogenetically modify them to light up when you are shining a laser on them AND they are performing a task you are interested in. You can think of an optogenetically modified neuron as a neuron that you can probe at high speeds.

    This is exciting because you can see, for example, functional connectivity at full speed in real, operating brains. This could enable the creation of a functional connectome which is kind of a traffic map of the brain (neurological connection studies give you the road map, optogenetics can give you the traffic). Previous techniques (such as neurotransmitter tagging) are far too slow to make such a "traffic map".

    Prior to this "sonogenetics" research, only really flat specimens could be used since lasers cannot penetrate deeply. This is nice development.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      1. You can genetically modify neurons locally by viral transfection. You inject an inactivated virus carrying whatever piece of DNA that you want and it will import that into a subset of cells' genome. Hence the use of optogenetics in humans is possible and is actively explored.

      2. Optogenetics techniques are actually two-fold.
      a. You can probe neurons as you described so that they light up when they are active. Very useful for establishing a functional connectome in

    • by jbengt ( 874751 )

      Optogenetics only works with GENETICALLY MODIFIED neurons, so won't easily work as a therapeutic technique.

      From TFA:

      It's probably far too early to talk seriously about potential applications in humans, but let's do it anyway . . .

  • The brain is the communication hub for the body. It's has a spinal column that spans neurons across the body. Nerves whose purpose is input and output to the brain.... And we are playing with switching them on and off with light and sound.... We haven't even figures out how nerves address the brain and each other. We don't even know how to coax the brain into making new connections. So primitive.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Wonder if this will be used to continue MK Ultra [wikipedia.org]?

  • "The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep."
  • Apparently a lot of people came away with a different idea of what's going on than I did when I read genetically modified organism, because I thought it meant making an organism that was more susceptible to having ultrasound directly affect neurons because the neurons were slightly different than in other organisms, and therefore could not lead directly to applications to humans.
  • by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Wednesday September 16, 2015 @05:39AM (#50530211)

    Well, I just bought a seconds-hand ultrasound machine for my runner's knee.
    I'll have to try if it can make me more intelligent as well.

    Now I have to go get flowers for Algernon.

  • I initially thought the last words he used were Soong genetics [wikia.com].

"The voters have spoken, the bastards..." -- unknown

Working...